Tag Archives: Councilman Costa Constantinides

City Council passes Astoria Cove development project


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

The City Council voted overwhelmingly to approve the Astoria Cove mega development on Tuesday, clearing the way for the major land use project.

The project now goes to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his likely approval. He has already praised the project after concessions were made by the developer to boost the amount of affordable housing included. He has five days to either sign or veto the measure.

Earlier in the month, Astoria Cove developers delayed the City Council Land Use Committee vote to strike a last-minute deal with elected officials concerned about having enough affordable housing in order to win committee support for the project.

Now more than 460 units of the 1,723 total apartments throughout the 2.2-million-square-foot project on the Astoria waterfront will be affordable housing.

Developers also agreed to hire union labor for construction and building maintenance jobs associated with the project, and commit to building a ferry dock.

“This agreement shows what we can achieve when the private and public sectors work together,” Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “This agreement provides real benefits to the neighborhood and will help further link our booming communities along the East River.”

Astoria Cove will consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building.

The project, which is anticipated to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space, a school and some retail.

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Astoria Cove wins City Council committee support after last minute deal


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Astoria Cove developers delayed the City Council Land Use Committee vote on Wednesday to strike a last minute deal with politicians and win approval for the project.

Based on the agreement, the number of below-market rate housing in the development will increase to 27 percent from 20 percent. About 468 units of the 1,723 total apartments throughout the 2.2 million square foot project on the Astoria waterfront will be deemed affordable.

Developers also agreed to hire union labor for construction and building maintenance jobs associated with the project, and commit to building a ferry dock.

Councilman Costa Constantinides, who promised to fight for more affordable housing units, fully embraced the project following the deal.

“The agreement will help transform Astoria for the better,” Constantinides said. “For the first time in city history, this developer will be required by law to provide permanently affordable housing that is within the reach of Astorians.”

The project still has to go through a full City Council vote on Nov. 25.

In addition to the Land Use Committee giving its approval, Borough President Melinda Katz has also had a change of heart due to the negotiations.

“The modified Astoria Cove proposal is consistent with Queens’ commitment to responsible development and is now closer to par with many of our chief concerns, namely housing, transit options and skilled labor,” Katz said in a statement. “Once built, this project will become a landmark accomplishment that we can be proud of here in the Borough of Queens.”

Astoria Cove will consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building.

The project, which is anticipated to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space, a school and some retail.

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Instagram account focuses on trash problem in Astoria


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Astoria Trash

One Astoria resident is getting a snapshot of what some have called an ongoing problem in the neighborhood.

What started first as a joke in July after the Astorian, who wishes to remain anonymous, noticed she had too many photos of trash on her phone has now become an Instagram account with 111 followers featuring “interesting trash” found on the streets of the western Queens neighborhood.

“Once you start looking for trash in this neighborhood you find a lot,” she said. “It’s not meant to be down on Astoria, it’s just a fun way to show there is a problem.”

The Instagram account called “astoriatrash” includes photos taken by the Astoria local and also submissions from neighbors and other residents, making it what she calls “a community effort.”

Calling herself the “Gossip Girl of trash,” she fills each post on the account with fun captions and hashtags. She said she also likes to try to make some posts holiday themed.

She added that she has become more selective with the photos she posts, trying to find “interesting” or “beautiful” trash.

Councilman Costa Constantinides, who since taking office in January has made keeping Astoria clean a top priority, said he is happy to see a community member spreading awareness of the issue in the neighborhood.

The councilman has allocated over $170,000 in discretionary funding to bring The Doe Fund to Astoria, allocated $30,000 for graffiti removal along business thoroughfares and participated in numerous park clean-ups across Astoria.

“I applaud Astoria residents who care about their community and about how our neighborhood looks. As part of our ongoing public awareness campaign to Keep Astoria Clean, we have encouraged participation from residents,” Constantinides said. “It is heartening to see community members like @astoriatrash play a role in spreading this awareness. I hope more people will be encouraged to help Keep Astoria Clean.”

The Astoria local behind the account, who also started a Twitter account to drive attention to the Instagram, said that some of the problems include a scarcity of trash cans in the neighborhood and a lot of people just throwing trash on the ground.

Although it would be bittersweet to no longer have trash to include on the Instagram, she hopes the problem will be solved.

“As long as there is trash in Astoria, I’ll keep posting,” she said. “But I hope the trash problem is fixed in the community.”

For photos, visit instagram.com/astoriatrash or @astoriatrash on Twitter.

To send photos and tips email realastoriatrash@gmail.com.

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Council member slams Astoria Cove project in hearing


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

A member of the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises called the affordable housing portion of the Astoria Cove project “a joke.”

Councilman Antonio Reynoso joined the choir of critics against the affordable housing portion of the mega development in the council’s public hearing on Monday.

Other public officials such as Astoria Councilman Costa Constatinides and Public Advocate Letitia James also emphasized that the proposed units for low-income residents aren’t enough.

Representatives for the team of developers on the project have boasted that the project is leading the way in affordable housing with a proposed 20 percent or 345 units of the 1,723 dwellings put aside for low-income residents.

But Reynoso, referencing former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s voluntary 80/20 program, in which 20 percent of units in new developments are reserved for affordable housing in return for benefits, told Astoria Cove project representatives, “What you’re doing is not unprecedented in any way, shape or form; 80/20 without subsidies is a joke. That’s the old standard.”

Reynoso also said that the rates for affordable housing units should be adjusted to better fit Astoria residents, which Constantinides has also previously said.

The team of representatives for 2030 Astoria Developers, the group behind the project, couldn’t answer Reynoso’s question about the average income of residents in Community Board 1, who will have preference to the affordable housing units.

“You guys said that you’ve been working with the community for four years, working very closely with the entire community for four years and you can’t tell me how much Astoria residents make in a year,” Reynoso said. “That’s not four years of work.”

Reynoso also asked how the size of the units in the affordable housing sections compare with the size of Astoria families, many of which need two- or three-bedroom apartments. Again, the representatives couldn’t respond.

“When one master-plans the development, especially of this size, one never plans the unit-mix breakdown at this stage,” a representative said at the hearing. “It’s never part of the planning process.”

Reynoso said he will not vote for the project’s current proposal, and said, “There is no chance this is going to move through.”

Numerous affordable housing supporters in the audience waved their hands whenever increasing the ratio of low-income units was mentioned.

Advocates in support of union jobs and residents from other properties of Alma Realty, which is involved in the project, were also at the meeting to speak out against the firm.

Among those speaking in favor of the project was Jack Friedman, the executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

“The Queens Chamber of Commerce believes this project is and will be a great addition for our borough and for Astoria,” Friedman said. “We wholeheartedly endorse and support the project and the many advantages it will present for the local community for generations to come.”

Despite the level of opposition to the current proposal of the project, the City Planning Commission gave its approval last month. Constantinides has pledged to get more affordable housing before the City Council votes.

“As the process moves toward our November vote, we will work with the developer to provide ample affordable housing, good jobs both during and after the construction process, and dramatically increase public transportation options on and off of the peninsula,” he said.

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Astoria Cove criticizers hosting another City Hall rally ahead of Council meeting


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Opposition to the Astoria Cove development isn’t going down without a fight as a City Council meeting for the project draws near.

Build Up NYC, which advocates for building service workers union 32BJ, is hosting a rally against the development outside City Hall on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Hundreds of construction and building maintenance workers and Astoria residents are expected to turn out, hoping to urge the Council to vote against the land-use application for the project as it currently stands.

The Council is set to hold a review session on the project on Monday, Oct. 20, in the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises.

The advocacy organization believes the plan does not offer enough affordable housing and is also fighting for more jobs for unionized workers. The project calls for 345 units or 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings to be affordable housing.

Despite Community Board 2 and Borough President Melinda Katz also opposing the project because of the lack of affordable housing, the City Planning Commission gave the project the green light last month with a majority vote.

Councilman Costa Constantinides reportedly agrees the project needs more affordable housing and that some of the low-income apartments are too expensive.

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Astoria Cove gets green light from City Planning Commission


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Despite opposition from residents, the community board and Borough President Melinda Katz, the Astoria Cove development won over the City Planning Commission.

The 2.2-million-square-foot project along the Astoria waterfront cleared a major hurdle Monday as the commission voted to approve its land-use application despite the push back from community members with a majority vote of 10 yes, two abstentions and one partial no.

“We are pleased by the outcome. And we are looking forward to working with Councilman Constantinides and the City Council and going forward with the process,” said Howard Weiss of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, which represents 2030 Astoria Developers, the team behind the project. “This project heralds a new era in affordable housing. It’s a great step forward in terms of the mayor’s 10-year housing plan.”

The partial no-vote centered on claims of insufficiency of affordable housing in the application. Community Board 2, Katz and others that opposed the project also called for more affordable housing to be included in the buildings, while developers are proposing 345 units or 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings.

Members of the building services union 32BJ were displeased by the result and pledged to fight at the City Council level for more affordable housing and unionized jobs.

“Alma Realty should not be granted permission to develop Astoria Cove until they commit to responsible development,” said Lenore Friedlaender, executive director of Build Up NYC, a coalition of organizations that includes 32BJ. “We will continue to fight for the good jobs and affordable housing working families in Astoria need to grow and strengthen the middle class, and we look forward to engaging the entire City Council to make sure this gets done right.”

Astoria Cove will consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building.

The project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space.

Recently 2030 Astoria Developers purchased the remaining land needed for the project for more than $43 million.

The City Council has 50 days to vote on the application, and affordable housing will be one of the main subjects reviewed.

“While the new housing stock is sorely needed, the development must work for all Astorians,” Constantinides said. “When the project comes before the City Council, we will work with the developer and focus on providing ample affordable housing, dramatically increasing public transportation capacity on and off of the peninsula, and keeping the development within the fabric of the community.”

 

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Annual ‘Celebrate Astoria Day’ to kick off Sept. 28, 2015


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Astoria now has its own day to shine.

The neighborhood will now be celebrated during an annual festival set to kick off on Sept. 28, 2015, known as “Celebrate Astoria Day.”

The official day was recognized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Councilman Costa Constantinides through a proclamation given to the local organization and blog site Give Me Astoria.

“The aim of Give Me Astoria has always been to bring the community together, and ‘Celebrate Astoria Day’ will serve to recognize not only this amazing neighborhood, but its phenomenal residents as well,” said Sanja Mylonas, founder and CEO of Give Me Astoria.

According to organizers, “Celebrate Astoria Day” is expected to “promote a sense of community” and offer residents activities and performances by local performers. The festival will also serve to help local businesses grow their relationships with the community.

For more information, visit www.givemeastoria.com.

 

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The Doe Fund to help clean more Astoria streets


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

More Astoria streets are getting cleaner thanks to the “men in blue.”

After hearing positive feedback from residents and business owners, The Doe Fund, which was initially brought to the western Queens neighborhood in April, will now expand street sweeping services to Steinway Street, Newtown Road, Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue, Councilman Costa Constantinides announced Thursday.

“This will be a boon to residents and small business owners across Astoria. The ‘men in blue’ will continue to provide reinforcements and additional resources to help keep Astoria clean,” said Constantinides, who has allocated over $130,000 for street sweeping by The Doe Fund as part of the new city-wide initiative Clean NYC.

The nonprofit organization, which employs recently homeless or formerly incarcerated people as part of its Ready, Willing, and Able transitional work program, was keeping the sidewalks clean and clearing the corner trash cans along 30th Avenue, Broadway and 31st Street.

“This program will increase the quality of life in Astoria, that’s the most important. Clean the street, find new jobs and community come together to be concerned about the quality of life,” said Ahmed Jamil, president of the Muslim American Society. “At the end of the day [before] you [saw] the garbage on the streets and you now don’t see it anymore.”

Although the Department of Sanitation collects trash from corner trash cans once per day in Astoria, the expansion of The Doe Fund helps alleviate the trash and littered streets which have previously caused problems in the neighborhood, such as sidewalk accessibility and shopping issues, according to Constantinides.

“The Doe Fund, combined with community street and graffiti clean-ups, will continue to make a difference in our district and across the city,” said Constantinides, who has also allocated $30,000 in funding for graffiti removal services. “Clean streets and buildings make our neighborhood more enjoyable and inviting—a win for everyone.”

 

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Borough president rejects Astoria Cove proposal


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy STUDIO V Architecture


And that’s strike two for the massive Astoria Cove proposal.

Following a Community Board 1 ruling against it, Borough President Melinda Katz rejected the 1.76 million-square-foot mixed-use waterfront development on Thursday after a public hearing earlier in the month.

In her decision, Katz echoed the community’s concerns of traffic congestion that the project would cause and the impact of the already “insufficient” public transit. She urged developer Alma Realty to increase affordable housing units to 35 percent from the proposed 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings. Katz also suggested that a proposed 456-seat elementary school, which is expected to be built in the final phase of the project, be constructed earlier.

“The proposed redevelopment of the Astoria Cove site would revitalize an otherwise underutilized Queens waterfront,” Katz said in the recommendation. “However, in bringing hundreds of new residents into Astoria, the needs and concerns of the existing residents…. And the overall well being of the borough and New York City must also be addressed. At this time there are still outstanding issues with this project.”

THE COURIER/File photo

Astoria Cove is expected to consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories, and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building.

The project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space.

Community Board 1 voted against the proposal in June, and also suggested that the developer make some changes to their plan.

The board’s conditions included some of Katz’s recommendations, and also asked for an increase in parking spaces, commercial space set aside for recreational and medical facilities, and priority of construction and permanent jobs for local residents and youth.

The next step for the Astoria Cove proposal is a revision and vote by the City Planning Commission on Wednesday and then a vote by the City Council.

Councilman Costa Constantinides shares the concerns of the Borough President and the board, and said he may not back the project.

“Both Community Board 1 and Borough President Katz have voted against the Astoria Cove development with recommendations,” he said. “If the development is not integrated into our neighborhood in a way that benefits the community, I will be unable to support it.”

 

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MTA to begin weekend bus trial expanding service along Vernon Boulevard


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

DSC_11092

Starting this weekend, residents and visitors will have better access to the western Queens waterfront.

The Q103 bus line, which connects Astoria and Long Island City via Vernon Boulevard, will offer service to riders on weekends, starting Sunday and operate later on weekday evenings, according to the MTA.

In April, the transit agency said the schedule update would serve as a trial program, and it would receive comments from the community at an MTA public hearing to be scheduled at a later date. After the public hearing, a decision will be made to keep the service or not. It has not been determined how long the trial program will run.

“This announcement is a milestone for all of us who fought for years to get proper bus service for the growing communities of Astoria and Long Island City,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who has been calling for the extra service on the bus line since 2011. “I am thrilled the MTA is finally realizing western Queens’ need for increased mass transit is real and pressing.”

Gianaris is also urging the MTA to make the Q103 expansion changes permanent.

The weekend service will run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and, in addition, the Q103 will also extend its weekday service hours until 9 p.m., instead of 7:30 p.m. The travel path and bus stops will not be affected, the MTA previously said.

“These enhancements were all a result of listening to our customers and keeping close watch on changing ridership trends,” said MTA NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco.

Local leaders and business owners see the need to expand the Q103’s service as crucial to the growing neighborhoods.

“It is a positive step in improving transportation options in our neighborhood,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “The Vernon Boulevard corridor has been one of the more under-served transit thoroughfares in western Queens. Increasing bus service would be a vital resource to commuters traveling to Manhattan and to residents connecting from Astoria to Long Island City.”

According to officials, the Q103 ridership has been increasing in the past years, rising from 558 riders per day in 2011 to about 790 in 2014.

The MTA has also announced that this Sunday the Q19 will extend its western last stop from Astoria Boulevard and 21st Street to the East River waterfront at 27th Avenue and 2nd Street.

The Q102 will then also remain on 30th Avenue between Crescent Street and 8th Street, according to the MTA, with the stops on Crescent Street, Newtown Avenue and Astoria Boulevard to be relocated to 30th Avenue. All bus stops along Astoria Boulevard will instead be served by the Q19.

For more information visit www.mta.info.

 

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Steinway Mansion sold to unknown Astoria buyers


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Gary Vollo

The landmarked Steinway Mansion is officially off the market.

The home that sits on top of a hill at 18-33 41st St. has been sold to two unidentified Astoria-buyers who grew up in the neighborhood, according to City Councilman Costa Constantinides.

Constantinides said he met with the two local men prior to their purchase of the home and they have no plan on changing it to a night club or dining hall but instead want to open it as community space.

“I was really glad they came to speak with the neighborhood first. They really want to work with local officials and the community to make sure it stays part of neighborhood,” Constantinides said. “They really want to work with the neighborhood. They want it to be something that celebrates the great history of Astoria.”

The home, which was built in the 1850s, was sold for $2.6 million, according to published reports. It had reportedly been on the market for about two years and in March a private buyer was said to be in contract to purchase the home.

The Astoria mansion was built by Benjamin Pike and was later sold to the Steinway family as a summer home around 1870, with the Steinway & Sons piano factory built decades later only a few blocks away. In the 1920s, the home was sold to the Halberian family and has stayed in the family ever since. It was later selected as a New York City Landmark in 1967.

 

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